A Thinkin' Problem
You know those types of days where you’ve been running like crazy, super productive, and by the end of the day you are just plain exhausted? I know them. Usually what happens is I excitedly lay down in bed for an amazing night of sleep, because well, I’m exhausted, and then. . . NO SLEEPING happens.
Instead, what happens is my mind wanders every which direction. What has to get done this week? What day are volleyball tryouts? Do we have milk? Is it expired? Maybe I can get by with it for one more day. I mean, if it doesn’t smell funny, it’s all good, right?
Rabbit holes. Big rabbit holes. And those things are EVERYWHERE!
Rumination. It’s a really big word for thinking about things over and over again. We all ruminate from time to time. Usually I find myself ruminating more when my mind has quieted down from the “doing” of the day: when I lay down for sleep at night. But, sometimes during the day my mind does its own little thing, wanders into unproductive territory, and it feels like the sky is falling. Poor Chicken Little syndrome. Can you relate?
What can we do?
You might be thinking. . . I can’t stop my mind from thinking. It’s impossible.
It’s not impossible. We can actually train our brains to respond differently. When we ruminate, we tend to withdrawal. We are stuck in our thoughts and become less active, more negative, and socially, we stink. All of this ruminating leads to depressive behaviors.
The first step to less overthinking is to simply notice when it happens. Sounds simple because it is. Once you catch yourself ruminating, take note. That’s it. Easy peasy. NEXT!
TAKE A MENTAL INVENTORY
This one takes a little more effort on your part. It’s simple, but it takes more time. Keep a journal and every hour or so, jot down your thoughts. Perhaps you journal for a minute after using the restroom or set a timer for every hour. The “how” isn’t important here. Things you want to journal include:
The time of dayHow much time you spent ruminatingThe intensity of your negative mood
After doing this for a week or two, it will become second nature and you likely won’t need to write anything down. You’ll simply be more aware of your thoughts. That’s the goal!
As I stated earlier, when we ruminate, we tend to withdrawal. This only makes the rumination worse. When we have nothing to do, we ruminate more. Staying busy is important. Watching TV and alone time tend to make rumination worse.
Find a book club, volunteer, take a walk, exercise, or find a hobby that keeps your mind busy.
Now that we know when we are ruminating, how do we stop? More doing and less thinking.
Any little activity. . . any activity. . . can help redirect your mind. Find something that brings you joy and use it to redirect your mind. Personally, I like to run. But, I find that I can’t always run so my second favorite thing to do is turn on my favorite song. A little dancing never hurt anyone. Well, unless there’s a witness in my case
Socializing and exercising are two of the most anti-depressive things a person can do. These relieve that rumination habit and allow your mind to travel elsewhere.
Here’s a fun list of activities to help you redirect:
Call a friendMeet a friend for coffee
Find a shared activity – something you can do with a friendvolunteeringbook clubsathletics (running, tennis, softball, etc.)card games/board games
Listen to music
Listen to audiobooks
Watching a movie – be careful here and know when this can help and when it can’t. If you find that a good movie helps your rumination habit – go for it! If not, avoid it.
Be mindful of what works for you. I enjoy a solo run. Others might enjoy meeting a friend for coffee more. You do you, boo!
Be balanced and know that sometimes rumination can help us. But if you find that you are losing sleep, becoming unproductive, or feeling depressive, try the steps above.
Here’s to a restful night’s sleep!
These tips on rumination are based on Dr. Stephen Ilardi’s book, “The Depression Cure: The 6-Step Program to Beat Depression Without Drugs”. I hope that you will check it out if you found this tidbit helpful!
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